"Oregon Capitol, and A Touch of Nature" Top 5 Page for this destination Salem by glabah

Salem Travel Guide: 110 reviews and 360 photos

The Capitol and All That

The state capitol of Oregon was selected to be in the middle of the Willamette Valley because, at that time, it was the center of the population of the state. Naturally, the Capitol Building itself is a place where many of us who went to grade school in the region visited at least once as part of school related activities.

As part of the state capitol, there are a number of administrative buildings, and assorted monuments, memorial parks, public art works, and public plazas. These range from a small picnic area by the agriculture building to The Sampo hidden behind the North Mall Office Building, and the impressive EcoEarth located in the Salem Riverfront Park.

Naturally, memorials to war dead make up some of the monuments. These range from the nearly hidden and humble Doughboy monument to the Korean War Memorial which is small in size but ornate, and the huge Afghan-Iraqi Freedom Memorial to a war that isn't over yet.

From Industry to Artist and Volunteers

At one time much of what is the downtown core of Salem (the several blocks along the waterfront) was heavy industrial. The city was ideally located for the paper and wood processing industries, as well as food processing from all the surrounding agricultural areas. Some of these industries still exist in Salem, while others are no longer there.

Some very creative people now live in Salem, and these local artists are responsible for such creations as the impressive EcoEarth located in the Salem Riverfront Park and the intricate hand made Salem Riverfront Carousel that attracts families downtown all year long. While I have only seen it from the outside, the appearance of the AC Gilbert Discovery Village seems to be a project of similar minded creative volunteers.

With so many creative people living here and in nearby communities, it should be no surprise that the annual Salem Art Fair and Festival is a huge event and attracts artists and art enthusiests from everywhere.

During the summer months the Salem Saturday Market is also a popular place to get local handcrafted items.

With a variety of art works from a number of eras and areas, the Hallie Ford Museum has an especially good collection of northwest First Nations art.

Nature Near the City

One of the nicest urban wilderness areas in the state of Oregon, as far as I am concerned, is the Minto-Brown Island Park and Wildlife Refuge. This is located directly south of downtown Salem, and is about the same size as the entire downtown area of the city. While the park has a playground and picnic facilities, the majority of space is wildlife preserve. It would be easy to spend an entire day in this park exploring its various trails.

Nearby Attractions

For non-urban natural areas, Salem isn't too bad off either, as it is close to both Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge and Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Both of those are managed primarily for wildlife, and therefore recreational activities are somewhat limited.

Silver Falls State Park is a wonderful place to visit, directly east of Salem.

The Oregon Garden in Silverton is near Silver Falls.

Brooks is just slightly north of Salem and has a large museum complex concentrating on old machines of all types.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Small city with a few unusual attractions worth visiting. Virtually everything downtown explorable by foot.
  • Cons:Small city without a huge diversity of activities, very busy throughfares make some places unpleasant, downtown dominated by huge shopping center.
  • In a nutshell:Despite shortcomings, Salem can be a pleasant place to visit, especially with the friendly small town personality of many of the people.
  • Last visit to Salem: Dec 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (46)

Comments (9)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Mar 10, 2013 at 1:02 AM

    You have a great story here, Glenn! It's written with sheer inspiration! Thanks a lot for sharing!

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Jan 1, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    This is quite an inviting looking place; so serene and peaceful looking. YOu have done a very good job of describing the sites and the pictures enhance that.

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Dec 7, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    Nice tips!

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    May 3, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    So much of interest on this page! I always enjoy the markets when overseas, would love the art fair, and would "have' to see that Carousel. Those craftsmen working on that are amazing!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Apr 28, 2010 at 6:54 AM

    Yes, I agree that it is better to wait until after a conflict is over before constructing a memorial to war dead. If I were a soldier with orders to go to Iraq or Afghanistan I would find it totally creepy to see a memorial with space for my name on it.

  • royalempress's Profile Photo
    Dec 3, 2009 at 8:04 AM

    Great Tips! thanks for visiting my Whidbey Island page.

  • atufft's Profile Photo
    Jul 13, 2008 at 11:28 PM

    What a well written collection of advice of Salem. I'm afraid that my effort to bring attention to this city falls short of yours, so please browse mine and look for mistakes that I may need to correct--alan

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jan 1, 2008 at 2:39 AM

    Very interesting, thanx and ~ Happy New Year! ~

  • Marianne2's Profile Photo
    Sep 26, 2007 at 12:47 PM

    Nice tip! We ate at the same picnic table once during our ramblings around the PNW. I'm always looking for nice picnic tables for lunch!


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